The Swanton Bulldogs are aiming to make the football playoffs for a fourth straight year this season, after making it just once in the program’s history before that span.
“As with many teams our size, keeping players healthy will be the key,” said head coach Randy Kerns of the upcoming season. “If that happens, we can compete with the league favorites. We return a number of starters (more than last season), and a group of seniors that has been to the playoffs three years in a row. We expect to be better in year two with the continuity of our schemes on both offense and defense.”
Last year, the Bulldogs finished 7-4 overall and 5-2 in the Northwest Ohio Athletic League. And they could have won a postseason game too, if not for having to face eventual state runner-up Eastwood in the opening round of the Division V, Region 18 playoffs.
The Bulldogs have 24 letter winners returning out of 36 players, with seven of those being starters from the 2017 squad. As a result, Kerns likes the makeup of his team.
“A little outnumbered, but the kids that we have are tough kids,” he said. “It’s the right 36 guys. The energy level is pretty good. The kids get after it and they work really hard.”
Key returnees for Swanton are Michael Lawniczak (first team All-NWOAL, honorable mention all-district, league scoring leader), Xavier Williams (first team All-NWOAL, first team all-district, honorable mention All-Ohio), Dylan Gilsdorf (honorable mention All-NWOAL), Hunter Mix (honorable mention All-NWOAL) and Derek Floyd (honorable mention All-NWOAL).
Lawniczak, Williams, Gilsdorf and Mix will provide the most leadership for the Dogs. “Those four guys were voted captains. They are great leaders,” explained Kerns. “They’ve really set the tone I think, pushing the younger kids and moving the team in the right direction.”
Newcomers for the Dogs are Josh Vance, Devon Crouse, Ryan Marvin, Conner Cass, John Townes and Ian Saunders. They will have to replace the likes of Gage Pachlhofer (first team All-NWOAL, first team all-district, honorable mention All-Ohio, Lukas Reiner (first team All-NWOAL, first team all-district, honorable mention All-Ohio), Anthony Howard (first team All-NWOAL, second team all-district), Crew Oberheim (second team All-NWOAL) and Noah Saunders (honorable mention All-NWOAL).
If their offensive line can gel as a unit, Swanton should have some success running the ball with Lawniczak and Mix in the backfield.
“We really like where our offense is right now,” said Kerns. “It’s getting a couple of those juniors or sophomores, that experience they need (to perform).
“We are lightyears ahead of where we were last year. Last year we had 900 penalties in the first six games of the year. We had to stop and redo a lot of plays in practice. We haven’t had to do much of any of that this year.”
The second-year coach likes the experience he has at key positions on the offensive line. Overall, he is encouraged by his team’s athleticism, their established belief in winning, and team work ethic and strength.
On defense, it’s all about the back-end.
“That back six or seven guys I really like right now,” said Kerns. “We think we’ve got enough guys up front on the defensive line. We’re not real big but we are athletic. We can do a lot of things as far as movement with those guys.
“But it’s not dissimilar to what we had last year. We weren’t very big but we still got the job done.”
Swanton will try to get the 2018 campaign started off right as they welcome Rossford on Friday.
Reach Max Householder at 419-335-2010